Best movie lists are fun to make up because you go back and reconnect with everything you saw. They're also exhausting because you can't include everything you want and have to cull mercilessly. You can read my results below but first a couple of catch-ups to get ready for them.

THE WHALE: You might imagine that visiting a mortally obese man in his small apartment and listening to him talk and talk wouldn't be much fun. Maybe not, but Brendan Fraser makes it compelling and poignant. He's sitting there with his huge stomach, fat arms and puffy face, hardly able to move and well aware that the pizza he has delivered everyday and the chocolate bars he has in a drawer aren't advisable. But he carries on anyway.

This story originated as a stage play, and the film hardly compensates for that. It's one room, four people come and visit and you'll be totally engaged. The writing and all the performances are that good. One is by Hong Chau who plays a nurse who takes care of him and warns that his blood pressure if up through the roof and will kill him. Another is by Ty Simpkins as a missionary type who wants him to accept Jesus Christ as a savior. Third, there's Sadie Sink as a teenage daughter who is equally petulant and angry at him. His wife (Samantha Morton) makes a brief appearance too. Gradually interconnections between these people are revealled some not necessary and quite artsy. He's a teacher of creative writing (via Zoom) and what does he order essays about? Moby Dick of course. There's grief and a gay angle in his own story. What holds all this together is Fraser's wonderful acting. He shifts effortlessly from plaintive, to fearful, to assertive, to smiling and happy and back again. He should be rewarded. So should Darren Aronofsky, the director. (In theaters) 4 out of 5

SHE SAID: It arrived with no fanfare and has pretty well moved along already in most of Canada. It's been suggested that the studio that made it didn't think there was much of an audience for it. But for anybody interested in how journalism is conducted this is a must see. Also for anyone following the growth of the me-too movement's fight against sexual abuse. This shows how The New York Times exposed Harvey Weinstein. (He's just been convicted a second time and has years in jail ahead of him).

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Carey Mulligan plays Megan Twohey and Zoe Kazan is Jodi Kantor the two young reporters who followed the rumors about Weinstein that many in the movie industry knew but didn't talk about publicly. Patricia Clarkson and Andre Braugher play the NYT editors. The film is detailed about their investigation, the frequent meetings they have to figure out what they've got and what more they need. The reporters make flash visits to witnesses or victims, hear graphic accounts of what Weinstein did and then work on the even harder part: getting any of them to talk on the record. Actor Ashley Judd is one of them and appears as herself. The script sharply gets across how the victims felt and how the legal system worked against them. This is an important film. Watch out for it, maybe still in a few theaters now, and streaming eventually. 4 ½ out of 5

BEST OF 2022: I knew this was a very good year for the movies but looking back over what I reviewed surprised me. Maybe it's true: chaos inspires art. There were so many candidates for a 10-best list I had to cull wildly. Before that, I grouped a few titles into categories, like this:

There were very good films about protecting the natural world including The Territory (Brazil), The Kablona Keepers (Canada), Costa Brava, Lebanon (yes, that country) and of course Avatar 2 (on a sci fi moon).

Race relations in the US was a big theme. My two favorites were Emergency (disguised as a teen comedy) and Descendant (a forgotten story from the last days of slavery but with contemporary impact).

Immigration, legal or not, was detailed in two very strong films. Riceboy Sleeps, by Vancouver actor Anthony Shim, is about trying to fit in here and revisiting his culture on a trip back to Korea. Flee, uses animation to tell a harrowing and until now hidden story about one man's experience with people smugglers.

Two films about China are especially notable. Ascension is a documentary that gives a clear and very close-up view of cultural changes going on. Hint: it's about money and pretentions of status, not COVID which it predates. Eternal Spring is a bit of history about the night some Falun Gong zealots hijacked a state TV service to put out the message that their movement is good, not evil. The film is Canada's submission to the Academy Awards.

Consolidation still wasn't enough. My 10 best are still 12. They're in alphabetical order.


Courtesy of Netflix

The classic anti-war novel became an Oscar-winning film in 1932 and now in its first German-language version boosts everything: the grim and fearful times in the trenches and the lies the young recruits were told that war is glorious.


Courtesy of 20th Century Films

I found the story and the characterizations underwhelming, but the theme of environmental stewardship encouraging and the visual creativity amazing. Also a bit of Canadian pride: James Cameron's film has already grossed a billion dollars, though he says it'll have to make twice that much just to break even. Astounding numbers.


Courtesy of Searchlight Films

Superb acting by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson and sharp economical writing and direction by Martin McDonagh make for a very entertaining and initially funny film about calling off a friendship.


Courtesy of Warner Brothers

As a fan myself I was wary of what Baz Luhrman might do with this yet-another biography of the the king. Well, it's splendid, frenetic at times, perfectly capturing his stage presence (in Austin Butler's performance) and the control Col. Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) had on him. It's not the whole story but potent anyway.

EO: A donkey travels through the countryside and meets the worst and some of the best of humanity. To watch it is absolutely beguiling, for the craftiness he shows and for what he encounters. Soccer players should beware though. They don't come off well at all.


Courtesy of A24

We all want cleverness and imagination in the movies. Get ready for loads of both in this one. Michelle Yeoh plays a laundromat owner who tangles with a tax department official (Jamie Lee Curtis) and drifts off imagining how her life could have been different: chef, movie star, opera singer, kung fu fighter, talking rock, world-saving eminence in the multi-verse. No chance of getting bored.

HOLY SPIDER: One of two very good depictions this year of the work of journalists (She Said is the second). This one is a true story from Iran where some 20 years ago a man was killing prostitutes thinking he was doing Allah's work to clean up the streets. A woman reporter does what the police couldn't do, find him. We see her work and the details are chilling.

MARCEL THE SHELL: Cleverness again and a very touching story. He's a mollusk who was seperated from his family when their house was turned into an airbnb. His grandmother (voiced by Isabella Rossellini) and Leslie Stahl of TV's 60 Minutes both help out. The film, is playful, whimsical and heartfelt.

NO BEARS: Iran's Jafar Panahi is currently in jail because he kept on making films when he was forbidden to. This is one of his best. It's partially about making films in secret and mostly about small-town attitudes, superstitions even, he finds in a village he visits to do his work. He gets more and more entangled in a local dispute, border and smuggler suspicions and more. Droll stuff but edgy too.

SHE SAID: The New York Times exposes Harvey Weinstein. (see the review above)


Courtesy of Focus Features

Cate Blanchett gives a powerful performance as a symphony conductor whose rise in the usually-male profession becomes threatened. That's thanks to by her personal way of working and a scandal from her past. Those two current preoccupations, female progress and cancel culture, play out vividly in this compelling film.

THE WHALE: Brendan Fraser also gives a powerful performance. He plays a mortally obese man and you come to believe his predicament. (See the review above)